Recent Responses

When philosophers try to answer a question like 'is it right to do X?', or 'do I have a soul?', they are asking the same questions which we all ask, and answer for ourselves, in everyday life. If philosophers research these questions intensively (perhaps for many years) before publishing their findings, and if even then there will be some counterarguments, how can we ever hope to find approximately true answers in our less formal, everyday musings? Thank you.

Nicholas D. Smith April 27, 2006 (changed April 27, 2006) Permalink I very much like your expression, "approximately true answers." That, it seems to me, is all that any of us can realistically hope to achieve in our thoughts about many things. So, perhaps, the only difference between the musings of the best philosophers and the most ordinary of people wo... Read more

Does free will fare any better under a Dualistic or Deistic system than it does under materialism?

Joseph G. Moore April 27, 2006 (changed April 27, 2006) Permalink I don't think so. The central puzzle is to understand how, in the presence of impersonal and seemingly comprehensive causal processes, we humans can really make the free choices we think we do about largely (if not entirely) physical matters--whether to pick up the phone that's ringing, or wh... Read more

Is a poem about nature beautiful because of its form, or is it beautiful because it reminds us of the beauty inherent in nature? Philosophers tend to equate aesthetic beauty with the form of a work of art and our 'interests' get in the way of appreciating the form. However if this is the case why is there not more beautiful poems about rubbish dumps and oil spills.

Douglas Burnham April 27, 2006 (changed April 27, 2006) Permalink A great question! There may be a middle ground to the answer. Beautiful natural objects, and beautiful poetic objects, might both be considered beautiful because of complex or harmonious formal properties that evoke certain responses (this is, roughly, Kant). If this is the case, the a beauti... Read more

Dear philosophers, this is a question from a fresh mother who has a teenage kid. Every time she asks some questions about the truth of life and world, I feel cornered. I hope she could grow up into a person who has her own judgements and ability to reflect independently. I don't want her to be influenced by her mother's words as I was. What should I do?

Jyl Gentzler April 28, 2006 (changed April 28, 2006) Permalink When I first read our interlocutor’s question, I too was tempted torespond that mothers have no choice but to influence their children’svalues and beliefs. Every action, statement, and gesture of a belovedand respected parent signifies to young children who are desperate tomake sense of their wo... Read more

How can speciesism, be immoral for people, but moral for the animals that clearly prefer their own species? If animals are morally culpable for speciesism, can animals be held morally responsible for other things like murder?

Peter S. Fosl August 6, 2006 (changed August 6, 2006) Permalink I agree with John Moore's response. I'd add these two additional considerations. First, it might be a bit strained to say that non-human animals are guilty of "speciesism" insofar as it may not really make sense to say that those animals possess the concept of "species," much less act upon it... Read more

In a code of intellectual conduct in a truth-seeking argument between A and B for positions X and NOT X respectively, starting a new thread of attacking the person A either by B or by the some members of the audience is definitely a fallacious argument (Argumentum ad Hominem) for the context under discussion. What about glorifying tributes to person A by some members of the audience as a part of the SAME thread of discussion? It obviously is irrelevent to the argument or the issue under discussion. How far is it inappropriate, sinister, or otherwise in the code of conduct in an intellectual truth-seeking debate between two participants A and B in front of the gallery of audience? My strong gut sense is the behaviour is inappropriate because it does not contribute to the strengthening or weakening of arguments in favor or against X. What do the panel of distinquished philosophers have to say on this (not so much the irrelevance but the inappropriateness as an intellectual conduct)?

Mark Crimmins April 23, 2006 (changed April 23, 2006) Permalink If you're after truth, it's often a big win to trust people. And in deciding whom to trust, the reports and evalutions of others can be of great value. So there's nothing specifically about truth-seeking that makes it inappropriate to support, or indeed to attack, the reliability of someone w... Read more

I have a rather simple question. I am majoring in biology right now and am thinking of switching to philosophy. The thing is the advisor told me that there really aren't any jobs for that field. He said I would basically have to go to a prestigious school to get one of the few jobs out there. Is this true? Are there really not many jobs in the philosophy field? Thanks.

Thomas Pogge April 23, 2006 (changed April 23, 2006) Permalink The answer depends a bit on the country you're in. I answer on the assumption that you are an undergraduate student in the US. Finding a job as a professional philosopher after completing a PhD in this field is a good bit harder than the average for all careers. Still, the odds are not against s... Read more

What is virtuous about a partnership in marriage (not necessarily the legal construct - the idea of committing to a life together)? What characterizes what is virtuous in leaving such a partnership (even) when the partners love each other and want one another to flourish but one partner doesn't see the partnership as a whole flourishing? To put it another way: How is it that most of the parts of such a partnership can individually appear to be so esteemable, and even to outweigh the less esteemable parts, and yet the whole be judged lacking?

Nalini Bhushan April 23, 2006 (changed April 23, 2006) Permalink This is tough to answer in the abstract, but I'll give it a shot bysupplying a bit of hypothetical context. First, I think it matters agreat deal which specific parts of the partnership are esteemed, andwhich not, in the calculation of the value of the partnership as whole.For instance, it may... Read more

I am stuck on a decision that I hope one of you can help me with. I am graduating in June (2006) and everyone is telling me to go to college. I am currently protesting college - thinking that if I self-teach myself (by reading many books), then I could possibly gain more knowledge than if I am sitting in a classroom with many other students. I am stubborn with this idea. I assume that with a teacher in a classroom full of students, (s)he is teaching the subject, not the people. (I hope that makes sense.) I am not too sure if my thinking is something I should go by, or if I should just grow up and go to college. Any opinion would be great.

Nalini Bhushan April 23, 2006 (changed April 23, 2006) Permalink When college works as it should, it allows you to imagine alternate possible ways of living your life in the "real" world, as you experiment with different disciplines, and are thrust into the orbits of sometimes unlikely people who might serve as mentors and role models. These could be your... Read more

Why do people say that some things mankind does are unnatural? Isn't every human development natural because we are part of nature?

Peter Lipton April 29, 2006 (changed April 29, 2006) Permalink I agree with Nicholas that where we can take natural to mean 'conducive to human flourishing', in Aristotle's sense, there will be a connection between being natural and being good. But there are natural functions that do not carry this meaning. In biological cases, functions often correspond... Read more